Alyxe stared into the water. Black water, like her heart: cold and unyielding. Nay, but her heart did not even have life to sustain anymore, she thought. The silver slips of light darted around in the water, while she felt like all was over already. She had no care for this life anymore, for any life. To just end the pain, to stop the bitterness of this world, was so tempting.

Soft footfalls on the grass behind her made her turn to look behind her. Over the perfectly manicured lawn, her husband, her jailer, sauntered toward her. With a smile, he said, "You should not be out here at this hour, my love."

She scowled and replied, "And why not? I see no danger in sitting by the water here. Indeed there is no danger at all for me, as I'll never leave here, will I?"

"Of course you will, m'dear. I see no fence; I do not trap you here. Perhaps a shopping trip into the town would be nice? Shall I arrange the carriage?" he suggested indulgently.

"I would rather die than soil my hands with your corrupt money," she spat.

A flicker crossed his eyes suddenly, but was gone so fast, Alyxe wondered if she imagined it. "Very well, love. Dinner will be served at seven. Do please come in to get ready before then." He left her now, going back to his sordid affairs.

She leaned her face over the bank. To just lower her head, it would be over. She took a deep breath, steeling herself. She studied her reflection as she willed herself to have the courage to stop her merciless empty heart, which was all that kept her here.

A pale image looked back at her. She was hauntingly beautiful. The dark eyes, so stormy, yet so blank, reflected the horror of these last days. Indeed it was only her eyes that looked so grief-stricken. Only through these two windows was she unable to keep her thoughts and pain from flowing. Her curls cascaded around the girl in the water, shining ebony as the night. Now the tips of those long tresses touched the water as ever closer to her escape Alyxe came. Her mouth- so perfectly shaped, so desirable-could barely hold back the great heaving sobs threatening to shake her body.

If her will was to falter now, if she could not relieve her suffering, she knew this was where she would be found, hours later, still held by her grief. Alyxe took her last breath and plunged her pretty head below the surface of the forbidding water. Instantly, the images she had been blocking so vehemently burst out before her eyes.

There was Count Felani, so handsome, so evil, reading out the sentence of her beloved Daren, her more-than-brother. Now Daren's body swayed gently in the breeze while birds alighted on it to feast. The Count, in a macabre show of affection, asked for her hand in marriage, a glint in his blue eyes warning her not to refuse him. He reached for her in the dark, and she struck out with all her strength at his perfect face; at this abominable man she had been forced to wed. Now a delicately featured woman kneeled on the bank of a river, her darkling head immersed in the water.

The shock Alyxe's fading brain received from seeing that which was not memory, but was now, sent her whole body tumbling into the water. The richly made wine-coloured dress she wore billowed out as she was swept away from the estate of the man who had ruined her life. Her face broke the surface of her death and she, from instinct and not desire to live, gulped in the air she hated.

The current pulled her ever farther away from her new life, the one she detested. This was the only way she would ever be able to escape, but she knew that eventually she would be found and returned, like a dog, if the river did not do her the courtesy of drowning her. Groggily, she heard a shout and she knew she must be floating past a village. Blackness enveloped her as two rough farmers' hands descended to pluck her bedraggled form from the water.

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